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Disclaimer: The proceeding has characters, themes, and phrases borrowed from the television program "The Pretender." I am not using them to make money, only for my enjoyment. In addition, should I be sued for 'borrowing' the shows elements, my defense will be that they are only my opinions, very detailed opinions, that reflect my thoughts on the direction the show should have taken. If they do not reflect that, then they reflect where I would have wanted the show to be taken. Anywayz, I apologize in advance to the writers/owners, and any other person in the category of 'Not knowing a good thing when it jumps up to bite you on the ass', if you're offended by my writing.

Realizing the Obvious.
A Ghost Returns.

"You’ve got mail" interrupted Jarod’s brooding silence. He always left his computer online in case of emergency messages from Angelo, Sydney or any kind of contact from his family. He was eager to see what was in this email.

He positioned himself in front of his laptop and directed the mouse to open the email where he then found a video attachment to be downloaded. The file was rather large, but he altered his computer for superior quality and timely performance, so he had the download in less than thirty seconds. He pushed play.

"Hello Jarod. Did you miss me? I didn’t think so, what with all the trouble I caused you. Oh, don’t be so shocked to see me alive and kicking. No one connected to the Centre ever dies the first time ‘round, especially when no body is recovered. In my case, I survived my second brush with death, Quite an amazing feat when the Centre’s involved.
That, however, dear Pretender, is not what I want to tell you about; it’s not what I want to torment you with. The truth is. You can never see the truth when its staring you straight in the face. It’s one of the reasons you still don’t have the answers to ‘your’ questions. That fact would not be so shocking if the answers weren’t so obvious, and if you weren’t a Pretender. But you are a Pretender and the answers are beyond transparent, so I am thoroughly shocked with your blind naivete regarding the Centre’s secrets and lies.

"You see, you and Miss Parker¾ how is she by the way?¾ are asking the right questions, but you two are not willing to see the answers, the truth, that stares right back in your faces and mocks you. Hell, without confirmation from the person or ‘persons’ who know the truth, it is hard to believe. It is a tragedy that there were only two people who knew the truth, and had your answers. It’s a shame that one of those people is already presumed dead. This goes in the face of everything I’ve already said about never dying the first time around when you’re connected to the Centre, and the fact that a body was never recovered, but I do believe Mr. Parker is dead. I guess we’ll have to call this a gut feeling then since I can offer no proof, if I could I’d flaunt it. That man is almost as despicable to me as you are. Was. That man was…Well, Jarod the fact that he’s dead only means one thing.
It leaves only one person left alive that can answer your burning questions, one person who knows the truth. Oh that’s not to say that I don’t already know everything that has been happening with you and Miss Parker. I even know about the scrolls. How? That’s easy Jarod, I am with that person right now. The last person alive who has the answers, who has seen the scrolls. I bet you can’t guess who. That’s ok, you won’t have to, let’s have a look shall we."

Alex steps aside to reveal a woman sitting tied to a chair behind him. Several strands of her red hair, gray gracefully blended in, fall over her blindfolded face. The woman is Jarod’s mother. Jarod’s self control is starting to deteriorate, an animal urge is prompting him to throw, break, and demolish the computer that is bringing this picture of Alex taunting him with his mother, to him. The only reason he doesn’t is that he knows Alex isn’t finished. This is just the beginning of whatever new game he’s playing and Jarod can’t let him win. He has to stop this soon before Alex becomes desperate, if he’s not already. Better to let Alex think he’s in control. His mother is in danger, he has to stay cool and let his common sense bring him to a solution. Alex moves back into view,

"Aww, Jarod, it’s almost a shame I had to show you your mother on tape. I did so want to see your reaction, but imagining it is quite good in its own right. Ha! I know what you’re thinking. Don’t worry, no harm will come to her…yet. We are just getting to know each other, discuss recipes, secrets, remedies, and something about scrolls. It seems your mother read the scrolls, can you imagine. She is the only one alive who has all your answers. Granted, there are those who know the truth about 'some' of the Centre's distressing secrets, but none are aware of how to change the future of the Centre. Your mother is. Which mean, if I’m persuasive enough, and you know I can be…I will know everything she knows very soon. Now, in order for you to see your mother again…alive that is, you have to play along. I want to see how on top of your game you really are, how well you can find answers to the all important questions plaguing you and Miss Parker… since, forever. I am going to give you some thought-provoking questions to chew on until I decide to contact you so that this little game that we’ve been playing can come to its merry end.
I learned these things while you thought I was dead... the very first time. I learned what your last name was before you even realized that your real parents were still alive. I wonder if you even know that much about yourself yet, I doubt it. Hope I haven’t hit a nerve yet, because this next thought is supposed to accomplish that, it has to do with your precious Miss Parker. Does she know, do you know for that matter, who her real father is?"
Alex smiles devilishly. "I do. Now for the greatest and most despicable, at least I imagine it is for you, deception of all.
I had almost forgot to mention this, but that is hard to do when it is something that can bring you pains; my number one passion in life. I have to keep your soul, your mind, your body, and your life in a constant state of torment. I will see you broken, and then I can get on with my life, I will feel unfettered by these urges for violence and revenge. Or as you would put it, my insanity. This will leave your stomach in knots when you find out the truth, I am almost positive you don’t know yet. You don’t know who baby Parker’s parents are, do you? Neither does Miss Parker, so don’t expect her to be able to help you in your quandary. Hmm ha ha. That one is still so funny to me, I knew Mr. Parker was a mean old bastard, but this is just so much more like something I would have done. Well, given the opportunity. I will call you in one week. Don’t worry, I have your number."

And on that note, Jarod did destroy the computer, but not before copying the file to a disk. He picked it up and held it above his head before bringing it down with all the force he could muster, resulting in the computer being smashed into hundreds of pieces. The screen, however, remained partially intact, and a picture of Alex was frozen on that shattered piece of screen, mocking Jarod.

Now that the unpleasant awareness of Alex being alive had had time to sink in, he slowly let his rage fade away. It was as if it were never there, the wrecked lap top the only evidence that he had even expressed that emotion externally. He couldn’t let it get a hold of him again; he had to stay focused for his mother. He just didn’t know if he should try to find her or wait for Alex to contact him.

He decided that having the answers to those ‘thought-provoking’ questions that Alex had asked could only benefit him in his search, and it could help him to figure out what motivates Alex. If he could do that, maybe then he could find him...and his mother. But to get those answers he’d need help.

He would need help from her this time; she won't be able to refuse him if she knows it’s about his mother. She told me that she hoped I could find my mother. Helping me in my quest shouldn’t be too much of a stretch for her. I hope.

* * * *

"Miss Parker, are you in here?" Broots asks as he gazes into her office, her seemingly empty office, from the doorway.

"Yeah Broots, I’m here. What do you need?" Her voice reaches him from her behind her desk, the back of her chair the only object between them.

"You’re not going to believe this, but I was checking your email for discrepancies today, and there was a video attachment on one of them." He says with an air of disbelief in his voice. She sits up straighter, and turns her chair around to face him.

He checked everyone’s email transmissions now, ever since Lyle and Raines had found out that Jarod was escaping lately due to tip-offs from inside the Centre. It was required of him to check and make daily reports on incoming and outgoing messages. He didn’t like invading Miss Parker or Sydney’s privacy, but they both said they understood. They were obviously surer then he was that nothing would show up to discredit either of them. He knew in the past there had been contact between Sydney and Jarod, and was worried that Sydney would make the mistake to provide information to Jarod without covering his tracks. He doubted Miss Parker would provide Jarod with any help, but it’s not exactly as if she was an open book. You can never count on her to be predictable when it comes to her feelings about Jarod. If either of them needed to communicate with Jarod, he would help them.

"Who is it from?" It was clear that her voice had already become increasingly more irritable as her day at the Centre dragged on. It never seemed to be over until she got home, and then she was right back here in the morning.

"That’s what you’re not going to believe." Broots waits, leaving Miss Parker in suspense before he lets this new drama unfold. He sees that Miss Parker is about to make a comment about him not being able to bring a point to an ice pick or something to that effect. And, not in the mood for her witty sarcasm, he ends his dramatics and tells her in a hushed whisper; "It’s from Alex."

At the mention of the man who tried to kill her father and her, she snaps her head up and gives him her full attention. "What was on it?"

"I only watched long enough to know that it was from Alex. I just came in here to let you know that you should check it."

"Broots, make sure no one else sees it. As soon as I’m done get rid of it, I don’t want any one to know about this." Broots made his way out the door after saying goodnight and promising to delete any trace of that email. He had no qualms about doing it; maybe if it was from Jarod, but it wasn’t, so he had no obligation to report this communication between Alex and Miss Parker to Raines or Lyle.

What possible reason could Alex have for contacting her? She had thought that Alex had died. Jarod had told her that he fell to his death, but the Centre’s cleanup crew never found a body. That should have been a clue that he was alive. She turned her computer on to see this video email that Alex had sent her.

"Miss Parker, I heard about your father, I’m sorry. Really. It’s a tragedy that I wasn’t the one to cause his death, but at least now, he’s gone. Now I can focus all my energies on torturing Jarod. And with your help, I will finally have Jarod where I want him. Whether you are aware of it or not, you will be helping me get to Jarod. And you won’t even know it, but he will, in the end. He’s going to come to you tonight for help. You will not be able to refuse, whether you believe that you will be his downfall or not, you can't refuse him. I don't believe you ever could, not really, not if it meant he would be in danger. Well, I have to go check on my guest now. Jarod will fill you in on the details. I’m sure we’ll get a chance to talk some time in the near future."

Shocked she stared at the screen as his evil face faded away. How could she be the downfall of Jarod? If there was any credence to what Alex had said was true, then she would have to restrain herself from helping Jarod. She’s caused enough trouble for him already; she couldn’t stand it if he was hurt... or worse. Alex would not be able to get to him through her that’s for sure. What if he was baiting her so that she wouldn’t help Jarod? Great, the man’s already confused the rules and regulations of the damn game for her. She brought her fist down on her desk with a loud thud, and a curse, as pain shot up her hand. Her own fault, maybe. But she was going to blame Alex, regardless. That man is the plague.

* * * *

Another day wasted at the Centre. Another day searching for a man she had no intention of returning to that hell. He did not need to know that, she could barely admit it to herself. If he found out he would never leave her alone. His constant pleading for her to leave the Centre behind would become more insistent, he might even voice his request this time. That would be a change from all the silent ones she had turned down over the years. And if he actually voices his request, she’d be hard-pressed to turn him down. God help her, she would do it, but it just might kill her.

Unless…She hadn’t stopped thinking about what Alex had said in that video email today. It would be appropriate of him to trick her, so that she would end up leaving Jarod trapped in whatever web Alex was weaving, all because she was afraid that she’d be his downfall. Maybe she could… a sigh escaped her. She dropped herself stomach first onto the couch to lie down. Maybe she should just help Jarod. If Alex was telling the truth about him even wanting her help. She yawned; her eyes felt extra heavy tonight. Better let them rest for a minute before navigating the stairs to her room.

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